Monday, 22 September 2014

Waste Less Live More

Today is the first day of 'Waste Less Live More' week. An initiative by 'Keep Britain Tidy' to raise awareness that environmental and social issues are interlinked and tackling these issues together is a far more effective solution. This year's theme is 'Be Resourceful', which is right up Fabrications street!

 I was approached by the 'Love your Clothes Campaign' to share one of my garment upcycling ideas as part of their 'Waste Less Live More' daily updates in collaboration with the 'Centre for Sustainable Fashion' . Between the two of them they will be streaming lots of tips and advise on how to get the most out of your old clothes in fun, practical and stylish ways. So make sure you tune in to their daily updates this week!

So here is my tutorial on how to transform a man's shirt into a stylish summer top. Time to raid your Father's, Brother's, Boyfriend's wardrobes! Thankyou Ali from Love your Clothes (London's arm) for taking such great pictures to illustrate how it's done. 

Step 1 -  Iron out any wrinkles to prepare for ....
Step 2 - Cut off the arms and cut through front and back of shirt in an even , straight line. Avoid accidentally cutting through a button! (which your scissors won't be very pleased about)

Step 3 - undo the buttons down the shirt front to reveal the inside back panel where you want to measure down 2" from the cut edge, put in a row of pins or mark with tailor's chalk.  
Step 4 - Folding under at the beginning and end (to hide raw edge), pin cotton tape (1" wide) along the row of pins / chalked line from side seam to side seam.  
Step 5 - Measure down 1.5" to add a second row of tape as per Step 4.  
Step 6 - Attach cotton tape to the inside (back panel) of the shirt by stitching along each edge, creating a decent sized channel for threading elastic through.

Step 7 - Attach a safety pin to your elastic (I used 6mm elastic) and thread through each channel, using the safety pin to secure the elastic at each end while you determine how gathered the back panel needs to be to fit your body. This can be done roughly at this stage and tweaked later to get a better fit.

Step 8 - Now it's time to play with the sleeves to make straps. Find 'Centre Back' and mark with a pin. Temporarily pin the sleeve cuffs on the front and lift sleeves over your shoulders towards the Centre Back pin mark. Now you know how much of the sleeves to cut down!
Step 9 - Set the machine to the longest straight stitch and run along the newly cut edge through both sides of sleeves (opposite end to cuffs) Pull on either top or bottom thread to gather.the fabric.

Step 10  - Pin both cuff ends facing down on top of outside of shirt fronts ('Right Sides Together') either side of the button opening and 'Stay Stitch' in position (stitch as close to the edge as you can, this stitching is just to help you for the next step.
Step 11 - Pin the cotton tape along the stay stitch line and just along each shirt fronts (not the back panel yet!) This time fold raw edges on each end of the cotton tape towards you (as this will get folded over as a hem later)  

Step 12 - Position the other end of the sleeve straps either side of your 'Centre Back' pin. Repeat same actions as Step 10 - pin 'Right Sides Together' and 'Stay Stitch' in position.
Step 13 - Attach cotton tape to the back panel, following the same method as Step 11

Step 14 - Fold the cotton tape over creating a hem in 3 parts (Front/Back/Front) on the inside. You can use an iron to help press into position neatly. The sleeve straps and any raw edges should be sandwiched and hidden behind the cotton tape.
Step 15 - Pin into position and stitch down the remaining cotton edge along the 3 sections of the shirt. 
Step 16 - As you've stitched the tape in 3 sections, you should have a neat opening on the back panel to thread elastic through to add a third level of elastication on the back.
Step 17 - Final touches! Pull elastic in all 3 channels to fit your body or ruched how you like it! Once happy cut back any excess elastic and hand stitch to anchor on the inside of each end the cotton tape channel.

As with many upcycling projects you will be led by the size and style of the shirt to create many variations on a theme. The blue shirt was an XL so needed more gathering on the back panel. On the purple gingham I also gathered the middle section of the sleeve straps to create a different finish. The possibilities are endless! Happy Upcycling! I'd love to see what you create! Please post your pictures on my Facebook or Twitter pages with the #wllm14

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


It's that time of year when I give my studio space and shop a shake up! A 'deep clean' and sort out to make way for new possibilities and shelf space! I've decided to set free some of my stash and treasures including these amazing vintage knitting patterns.

 You might recognise a couple of the models! Sean Connery and Lorraine Chase. A lot of great actors started their careers on the front of knitting patterns.

Some designs no matter how old are timeless and look fresh today. Come on down and grab yourself some one off bargains. I'm selling patterns and magazines like these for 4 for £1 or 10 for £2

There are also lots of other goodies and deals including 50% off a selection of yarns, craft kits, books and gifts * bag of fabric £3.50 or 4 for £10 * bags of creativity * bags of fun * brick a brack * Other random delights! "Come down and have a look!"
Opening Times: Tuesday - Friday 12 - 5.30pm, Saturday 10am - 5.30pm, Sunday 11 - 5pm

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Upcycling Inspiration - 5 ways to reinterpret a classic man's shirt

 Starting simple! Re shape and give it the feminine touch by adding darts and some embroidered patches, purchase pre made patches or make your own with 'free motion embroidery'. Check out my

The button openings on a shirt make them an ideal choice for simple cushion covers, as you don't have to insert a zip or create an overlap. Simple flatten out the shirt and cut a square through front and back of the shirt the size you want your cushion to be and stitch together. Take a step further and applique, decorate the plain side before assembly. You can learn how to make one and build your confidence on using a sewing machine in these classes!

Little bit more challenging but easy when you know how! Use 4 sleeves to make a lovely little summer skirt or 'Shkirt'! Simple cut along underarm seam to create 4 flat panels. Stitch together each panel from shoulder to cuff (check your waist measurement to determine seam allowance) Insert a zip into one of the seams. The cuffs give the skirt a natural waistband! Learn how to make one and improve your machine sewing skills on my....'Making the most of a sewing machine' (zips, buttonholes, binding & free motion embroidery) & 'Make your own stylish skirt from a shirt'

  Wonderfully, I am now working with the talented David Mumford at Fabrications, a very creative and skilled fashion designer and maker. David began designing and making clothes in the early 80's. He has run his own labels 'Nocturn' and 'Combination' as well as many years in the commercial fashion industry. Most recently (2004 - 2013) he was one of the designers of the pioneering upcycling clothing brand 'Junky Styling'. This year he set up his own brand D.A.M specialising in upcycled pieces (and on sale in Fabrications shop!)

David will be offering an Upcycling workshop in June on how to reinterpret a classic man's shirt into a unique garment. He will present a range of designs which workshop participants can choose from to create (suitable for men and women)  The designs will have no patterns and will be created using a step by step formula and assisted by David. Ranging from some items that have no cutting involved, through to basic cutting and machining. The techniques used will involve origami type folding, draping and the construction of different size square and rectangular pieces that fit together to become the fabric for the finished design.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Yarn Shop Day

Fabrications is proud to be a part of the 'Love your yarn shop' campaign. Initiated by Let's Knit and their sister magazine 'Let's get Crafting' the aim of the National campaign is to raise the profile of  bricks and mortar yarn stores, encouraging Crafter's to support their local yarn store and celebrate the value we offer beyond just selling wool! including personalised advice, ideas, expert recommendations, classes, socials, SOS (save our stitches!) and much more!

The campaign culminates with 'Yarn Shop Day' on Saturday 3rd May, when customers and local yarn stores all around the UK will join forces to spin a yarn and share their yarny love. Different shops will be hosting free workshops, promotions and inviting in knitting & crochet 'Ambassadors'.

How will Fabrications be celebrating Yarn Shop Day?

We will have an open house, offering free taster workshops in MACRO knitting, continental knitting and projects advice / SOS in our beautiful and welcoming Imaginerium craftspace. In conjunction with Stylecraft we are also offering Goody Bags - cotton bags containing yarns, haberdashery, knitting patterns to the first 40 Yarn Shop Day customers! Look out for our special window display too, which is going to spill out into the street!

Which Ambassadors will be with us on the day?

- Fabrications own Barley Massey will be sharing tips on MACRO knitting and making your own upcycled yarns
- Jill Bulgan, a regular adviser at our fortnightly Craft Club and teaches the 'progressing your knitting skills' classes will be available to offer some help with your projects and knitting dilemmas.
- Luise Roberts, author of numerous knitting and crochet books including 'First Knits' published by Collins & Brown (and on sale in our shop!) who informs me she loves to demo continental knitting as her party trick and is generously providing a free pattern of her Marilyn Monroe finger puppet for the goody bags!

Do I need to book?

Although it is free and drop in style, we'd be grateful if you could book in so we can accommodate you and ensure we have brewed enough tea and cake and prepared enough materials (for example you can make a MACRO knitted scarf) You can do this HERE!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Meet the Maker- it s Rosie Martin of DIY Couture!

I'm enjoying the opportunity to carry out mini interviews with the different makers I am fortunate to be able to work with at Fabrications. In this post I present the wonderful Rosie Martin.

I first met Rosie approx 4 years ago, when she visited the shop to show me her self published 'DIY Couture' garment instruction books. I was really impressed with her well illustrated, clear cut, step by step guides to making your own stylish clothes, without the complications of highly technical patterns. Wow! Really empowering for new stitchers, I thought. I instantly wanted to stock the books and have Rosie teaching her approach at Fabrications.

So subsequently, students have enjoyed learning how to make their own capes, trousers, scater skirts, waistcoats with Rosie s gentle guidance and this month she will be showing how to make a very simple gathered dress (suitable for beginners) or 'Grecian' dress for those of you that have seen Rosie's bumper DIY Couture book, published by Lawrence King (and on sale at Fabrications, of course!)

Barley : What inspired you to first start creating your DIY Couture instruction garment making books?

Rosie : I was a gung ho clothing maker as a teenager and experimented in making clothes without really using sewing patterns. I went through years of trial and error until I started to make clothing that looked socially acceptable – even pleasant – and when people started to comment positively on my clothing my reaction was to preach about the joys of sewing. I often found people were afraid of sewing, thinking it was out of their grasp, and I really wanted people to see that making clothes was in fact an accessible activity, not something you needed a degree to do. That’s how my picture based instructions were born.

Barley : Do you have a favorite garment or item you enjoy making?

Rosie : I love a good colourful bomber jacket and I do own a few too many homemade versions. I’ve designed a really simple jacket without set-in sleeves (instructions in my Laurence Kong book!) so it’s actually quite a fast project, meaning great satisfaction can be reached without too much toil!

Barley : What is your best and worst fabric to stitch with and why?

Rosie : I actually love sewing with sheer (transparent) fabrics as it presents challenges but is really satisfying. I hate sewing velvet. It has a mind of it’s own and mystical power over the sewing machine. I have recently got into applying interfacing and spray starch to fabric to change its essential properties. This means you can transform an unruly fabric into a fabric that does exactly what you tell it to. Ha! No fabric gets one over on me (apart from velvet!)

Barley : A little birdy told me you've been working behind the seams of  the 'Great British Sewing Bee' TV programme...what did you get up to?

Rosie : Ah yes, I have and it has been a lot of fun! I have the great pleasure of working with sewing guru Claire-Louise Hardy, the sewing producer of the ‘Bee. Amongst other things, I do the technical illustrations on the instructions the contestants follow when they are given the first challenge, so if they look confused you can probably blame me.

Barley : What words of advice can you offer new stitchers, who want to make their own clothes but perhaps are not sure about how to go about it?

Rosie : I’ve got a very hands-on approach so I would say pick something you really want to make and make it! There is an amazing world of sewing-support on the internet, so whenever you get stuck just Google your problem and someone out there will have already posted some advice about it on the internet!

To book your place on Rosie's dress making class on Sunday 30th March, visit Fabrications workshop Calendar

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Meet the Maker: Gilda Baron

Over my 15 years of running Fabrications, I have promoted, sold work, collaborated with over 200 talented textile practitioners. In my shop I have explanation cards alongside makers work, giving insight into the maker, their ethos and processes. I thought it would be fun to extend this to my blog.

Gilda Baron 09 
 Image of Gilda courtesy of Colouriciuos

I am delighted to present the talented Gilda Baron, who will teaching 2 textile workshops this month at Fabrications. In 'Don't Bin it, print with it!' Gilda will share fabric printing methods with a twist! In the afternoon you can stay on and learn different hand embroidery techniques and learn how to embellish your printed fabrics created in the morning or other fabrics!

Textile piece by Gilda using printing (from rubbish!) and hand embroidery.

Barley: Where do you draw inspiration for your work?

Gilda: I try and have a sketch book at hand when on holiday, although it is sometimes not easy, as it maybe pouring with rain, freezing cold, or nowhere to stop and get my pencils out.
I only carry a very small notebook mini coloured pencils and a black pen.
Barley: Your work is so multi layered, using a number of different textile processes in a piece, do you have a favourite technique?

Gilda: I have developed a unique style of textile art, which bursts out of the frame with life and vitality.  The techniques I use to achieve this include fabric dyeing, batik, hand and machine embroidery, hand made felt and applied pieces. The many layers are what makes my textile art so distinctive and draws the viewer into the scenes
I love all the techniques! 

Barley: You have led a very accomplished and long textile career, can you share some highlights?

Gilda: Life has been good and so many special things and people.
I think the first of the many was convincing everyone that I wanted to go to Shoreditch Technical School, for the Garment Trades when I was only 12 years old and not stay at school and take O levels and do a Commercial course as nice girls did in my youth.
At the other end of my life to be invited to teach at the V&A Museum last year
Gilda running her 'Don't bin it, print with it! workshop at The Attic, Lines of Pinner

Barley: What can participants expect from your classes you will be offering at Fabrications?

Gilda: Finding throw away items to print with, your rubbish will never look the same to you again. But most of all having fun, while learning.


Gilda Baron has a large exhibition of her work at this Spring's 'Knitting and Stitching Show' in Olympia, 13th - 16th March. Go and meet Gilda and her amazing textile works and then book onto her workshop at Fabrications for a unique learning experience with a special, internationally recognised textile artist.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

How thoughts create reality

Albert Einstein said "The world we have created is a product of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking"

I decided to stitch Confucius' wise words "A journey of a 1,000 miles starts with a single step". I am using it as a meditative reminder to help me on my personal path of growth!

This year I am thinking about my thinking and how my thoughts can impact on my actions or non actions! In January, Sarah Corbett, founder of Craftivist Collective hosted a thought provoking new year's resolution 'Craftivist footprint' workshop at Fabrications, which encouraged participants to think about their imprint on the world, what it means to be a global citizen and stitch an intention on a pre prepared foot or shoe print.

Sarah provided all the participants with their own mini tool kit including a description of what a 'good global citizen is someone who'.......
*Is aware of the wider world & has a sense of their own role as a world citizen
* Respects and values diversity
* Has an understanding of how the world works economically, politically, socially, environmentally
* Is outraged by social injustice
* Participates in and contributes to the community at a range of levels from local to global
* Is willing to act to make the world a more sustainable place
* Takes responsibility for their actions
(Source: Oxfam 1997)

As well as very interesting discussions on these points as a group, Sarah created a space of 'stitching in silence' so that individually we could really concentrate on our sewing, still our minds to really focus on our intention.

Craftivist Foot print workshop - all full house with Italian TV crew as well!

In February, I enrolled on a short course on the MIND at the New Acropolis. I feel I've discovered a bit of a secret gem (although the association has been residing in Islington for 15 years) New Acropolis is a philosophical association with a cultural and social vocation whose objective is to practise philosophy in the classical tradition, that is not merely intellectual and theoretical philosophy but philosophy for life, for a more humane and fulfilling existence. 

The NA's belief is that the mind is an important key to building a sustainable future. Many of the problems we are facing today as humanity are caused by our own actions. Their school provides a space for awakening a spirit of universal brotherhood/sisterhood through an ethical and moral approach based on the idea that it is by improving ourselves that we can improve the world.

 "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world" (Buddha)

Week 1 we looked at and discussed mindsets, assumptions, perception, mental filters  - VERY INTERESTING!
Week 2 explored concentration and inner awakening. Taking away our conceptions (ideas in our mind) to meet what IS without our filters or judgements coming in. We focused specifically on an art work drawn by Lama Blo-Bzang Don-yod in the 17th Century. The purpose of the drawing is a tool to awaken the path of the soul and to overcome the obstacles and difficulties in conquering our mind through simple daily physical and mental exercises. The New Acropolis have produced a beautiful little book called 'Concentration & Inner Awakening' containing the illustration and how to understand the symbolic elements contained within it.
This week is the final part of the course and will look at how to develop our minds creatively. Imagination and the ability to create what does not yet exist, to cultivate and further our minds.

"The real magic of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes" Marcel Provost (1899)